beauty buzz: to wash or not to wash

Remember when I was going on and on about New Year’s resolutions a few weeks back? So many of you told me your resolution had something to do with your hair. Specifically, about how frequently you wash. Since I had this little debate with myself last year, I thought I’d pass along some of the things I learned in my journey to less-frequent lathering. It can be a tough road, but in the end, I swear, it’s all worth it.

The goal…

First up, less-frequent washing really is the right thing to do. I’ve tried everything from daily to weekly to semi-weekly to not at all (yes, I’ll do anything for science), and I’ve found that washing twice a week is really the magic number for me. Any more than that and I start to notice serious dryness and scalp troubles. Any less…and well, my hair actually loves it, but I start to get nervous.

So, a few tips, tricks and thoughts to cling to when the going gets rough:

1. This process takes about a month to get right. So, prepare yourself for a few weeks of discipline (you’re going to want to wash that hair so badly!), and a few bad hair days. You’re going to want to cave. You’re going to think your hair looks awful. Your scalp is going to feel weird. But just like any other change in a beauty routine, your hair needs a few weeks to adjust and regulate its oil production. But it will adjust, I promise. Give it time – things are about to get awesome. And remember, this is why God invented the up-do.

2. Not washing doesn’t mean no water. It means less water (my hair gets wet roughly every other day) and no soap. I do a rinse and a light conditioner on the days I’m not washing (the conditioner isn’t necessary, but helps). Essentially, it goes like this: on days I plan to blow dry, I wash and condition my hair. Then I make myself go 3 days before washing again, just living off the glory of the blow dry from day 1. On days I air dry, going a second day isn’t an option, so I do the rinse-and-condition routine.

3. When you do wash, go easy. Use maybe a nickel-sized amount of shampoo, rub it into your hands first, and then massage it into just your scalp, avoiding your ends. Give it a good 10-second scrub, then rinse. When you condition, do the exact reverse – aim for the ends, and skip the scalp.

4. You’re going to need a dry shampoo. It absorbs excess oil, and helps with itchy, annoyed scalps. I haven’t found that brand matters all that much – it’s almost entirely corn starch, so this isn’t rocket science. I’m currently using Blow’s Faux Dry, and it’s great. Get one that’s easy for you to apply, whether it comes in a shaker, an aerosol or a “pouf” bottle (like the one from Blow). And stay away from colored dry shampoos. They rub off everywhere, and are a pain. To apply, part your hair somewhere other than your natural part, then put a small amount (go easy, I cannot stress this enough!) of dry shampoo on the part line. Repeat a couple of times, using different part lines, then brush through your hair and apply a blow dryer to dissipate the powder. Don’t panic when your hair looks white – brushing and blow drying will fix it.

5. Go easy on styling products. Remember, once it’s in, it’s staying for a few days. So, go light, particularly on serums or oils in the beginning, as they’ll weigh your hair down a lot more by day 3.

6. You’ll want a great brush – preferably boar bristle – to get you through. Use it at night to really massage your scalp and distribute oils evenly throughout your hair. Plus, it helps remove some of that product from tip #5. It makes a difference, I swear. I happen to love my Mason Pearson, but I recognize they’re exorbitantly expensive. Get the best you can afford/justify, and call it good. But go 100% boar unless your hair is ungodly thick.

Once you get through your break-in period, I promise you’ll have happier hair waiting for you on the other side. Hair that needs less blow-drying, less product, less serum, less oil, less conditioner, and generally less work. Hair that looks healthy. Maybe not Jennifer Aniston-healthy, but hey, baby steps.

What do you think? Are you ready to give it a try?

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10 comments on “beauty buzz: to wash or not to wash

  1. Vanessa

    This is SO helpful! Especially the “not washing doesn’t mean no water” bit – but I have a follow up question. Do you think you’d still get good results if you rinsed your hair more often? I run/do yoga 5-6 days a week and my head gets kind of … sweaty. I can’t imagine not at least rinsing it after exercising. Thanks for the advice!!

  2. Rachel (heart of light)

    So glad you’ve done the experimenting!

    So far I’ve failed on this front. Ideally, I like to wash my hair 2-3x per week. This worked great when I was able to work out in the afternoons. I would just rinse off and let my hair air dry on non-wash days.

    But now I have to work out in the mornings, right before work. The two do not go together well, sadly. I’ve yet to come up with a solution that doesn’t force me to rearrange my whole schedule. Sigh.

  3. Shopping's My Cardio

    Vanessa, great question. To be honest, I’d at least give the dry shampoo a chance to solve this one for you – see if you can stand just using that after a workout. If you just can’t take it, I think a rinse without shampoo is still better than a full wash – it won’t strip nearly as many oils as the cleansing does. Let me know how it goes!

  4. kristina

    I would love to wash less – my hair looks so much better (i.e not as frizzy and poofy). My issue is a flaky hairline. Every winter my scalp along my hairline gets really dry and flaky. I can’t go more than a day without washing it to get rid of the flakes. I’ve tried everything to cure it – moisturizing masks, argan oil, tea tree, scalp scrubs… Any suggestions would be appreciated!

  5. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    Kristina, this was one of my problems as well. The reason it’s flaking is that it’s dry – and tea tree oil and scrubs would only exacerbate that. If you let the moisture in your scalp start to naturally regulate, that will go away, I swear. To get through the “growing pains,” I might try washing your hair on a Friday, and going through the weekend. See how it is on day 3 – the flaking should improve in time to go back to work. Since you have so much dryness, you might even want to only wash 1x/week for a while to regulate – do more of the rinse/condition treatment, and less shampoo. And if things get desperate, go ahead and work a little conditioner into your hairline in the shower, instead of just focusing in the ends – be sparing, but that might help temporarily. Also, lots of scalp massage in the shower, and brush massage at night – get those oils distributed! Good luck 🙂

  6. DL

    this is awesome and SO helpful! 🙂 thanks very much! questions surrounding the dry shampoo: do you use the dry shampoo on *each* day you don’t wash (and by “don’t wash” i mean *no wet shampoo*)? or do you use the dry shampoo even on days you wash with less water and conditioner? or should the dry shampoo be used sparingly too and strictly on no wash-with-water days? just wondering!

  7. kristina

    I was hoping you weren’t going to tell me that it’s going to get worse before it gets better! Good thing I have a Burberry bucket hat that I love because it sounds like I’m going to be wearing it a lot (and listening to my husband sing the Inspector Gadget song everytime I do. My hat looks nothing like Inspector Gadget’s btw. The husband’s just a dork.)

    I was considering trying Wen Cleansing Conditioner instead of shampoo. Have you ever tried it?

    Thanks for the advice Becki! I’ll give it a try and let you know how it goes.

  8. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    DL: I only use the dry shampoo on days that I’m dying to wash but know it’s too soon. Honestly, I hardly ever use it now (really only to save myself when I’ve used too much product), but it was a lifesaver in those first months when my scalp was still adjusting to this new routine.

    Kristina: I haven’t tried Wen’s cleansing conditioner! I’ll have to see about testing it for you. In general, though, you’re trying to avoid the “cleansing” side of things, so I’m not sure if that’s the route you want to go in the beginning. Start by erring on the side of washing *less*, so your scalp will start producing its own oil again.

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